Air Force creates new information warfare training detachment

Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter's Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., Dec. 2, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

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The Air Force has created a new information warfare training and research detachment aimed at improving the way the service prepares airmen to conduct operations.

Air Combat Command created the new entity March 22 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. It will be a subordinate unit of the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, with locations at the 67th Cyberspace Wing at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, according to a news release.

According to the service, the detachment “will conduct IW training and research events to address the growing importance of operations in the information environment and the electromagnetic spectrum” as they relate to strategic competition.

“If we want to be a resolute world power, we must not only compete in the global commons but also compete and win in contested sovereigns,” said Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command. “Most competition, if not all combat, will take place in the electromagnetic spectrum. Focusing our offensive and defensive capabilities in the digitally-enabled domain is critical to honing our lethality.”

Air Combat Command, the Air Force Research Lab, and the Secretary of the Air Force’s Concepts, Development and Management Office, along with several academic organizations have been experimenting with ways to change how the service conducts info-warfare training and research for the last several years, the Air Force said.

The department has created a hybrid, wing-level organization to connect airmen from multiple locations to accelerate readiness through training and research.

The Air Force has sought to improve its training especially through live-virtual-constructive environments, which leverage computer-generated entities to help simulate real-word scenarios. It has organized and executed 22 information warfare-focused events spanning the globe to reimagine traditional training and research models.

“We’ve adapted a ‘build, learn, correct, repeat’ model,” said Col. Christopher Budde, chief of Air Combat Command’s information warfare division. “We are experimenting with sustainable processes and events in quick succession to scale conceptual ideas, operationally test them, then integrate these processes across the larger federated enterprise.”

The model of linking airmen and experts across the world to experiment, test and train in the information environment and electromagnetic spectrum provides many advantages over the traditional approach, the Air Force said, namely giving info-warfare teams training and research repetitions.

“The distributed nature of the events means they can be conducted more frequently, can be ongoing, and members can participate in multiple iterations,” Budde said. “If a unit is unable to participate in an event, they can jump back into a future iteration when available, but the challenges in the information environment continue and the teams have to respond with the capabilities available.”

Most recently, info-warfare specialists from 34 organizations across 23 geographic locations integrated capabilities within an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission.

In 2019, the Air Force activated the 16th Air Force, the first info-warfare-focused numbered Air Force. This unit combines and consolidates cyber, electronic warfare, information operations and intelligence under a single command.

Since then, the service has conducted a series of exercises at a training facility in Playas, New Mexico. These exercises are designed around “live fire and live fly,” aiming to refine information warfare tactics, such as honing cyber, electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum capabilities.

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Air Force, Department of Defense (DOD), electromagnetic spectrum operations, information warfare
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